If you’ve been doing thousands of crunches day after day, month after month, then it’s finally time to drop them from your six pack abs routine. How to get washboard abs then? Let me introduce you to plank exercises. Performing planks for abs is a great way to develop a six pack. It may not be the sexiest exercise for you “manly men” since planks are a yoga movement, but plank exercises are certainly one of the most effective abdominal exercises around.
No More Crunches
Before I delve into specifics about planks, I think it’s important to discuss the drawbacks of crunches. The first thing to note is that if you want to get washboard abs, you can’t spot reduce belly fat by performing crunches or any other exercise. You have to lose enough body fat through high intensity exercising and a strong diet before you have any chance of seeing your abs.
More importantly, in my opinion, crunches don’t really qualify as an effective abdominal exercise. Abs are part of core muscles that are meant to stabilize your body and keep your spine straight. Crunches involve the exact opposite movement, whereby you flex your spine and “crunch” at your back’s weakest point. This puts more strain on your lower back and your posture suffers.
Situps solve half the problem since you should be keeping your back straight when performing them. However, situps really don’t incorporate abdominal muscles; they utilize lower back muscles. Once again, you’ll walk away with lower back pain and poor posture. If you’re still not convinced, think of the age old advice of how to lift a heavy object. Bend at the knees and use your legs. If you bent straight over, you would likely strain your back.
Why Do Planks For Abs?
Plank exercises are a great way to work your abdominals as well as your entire core. By forcing your body to stabilize itself in one position, planks work both your abdominal muscles as well as your back muscles. A significant advantage of planks in terms of developing better looking abs is that they work the transverse abdominus (that holds in the rectus abdominus), while crunches focus on the rectus abdominus alone. What will happen with crunches alone (aside from back pain) is that your abs will stick out when viewed from the side.
There are a number of different plank exercises that you can perform. The best starting point is the standard plank. You basically get in a pushup position but instead of resting on your hands, you rest on your forearms. You hold your back completely straight while trying to hold your abdominals in. While it may sound easy, the longer you try to perform a plank, the harder it will be. You might start with 30 second sets and work your way up to 2-3 minutes.
Here are some variations on the standard plank:
- Side planks: these target the obliques. You place one forearm on the ground and balance on the side of your foot.
- Stability ball planks: you could either place your arms on the stability ball with toes on the ground or feet on the stability ball with hands on the ground. The instability of the ball will require you to recruit more muscles to stabilize yourself.
- Weighted planks: the standard plank done with weight on your back. Use caution as you need to ensure that you keep your back straight despite having added weight.
- One arm, one leg planks: perform the standard plank but either extend one arm or lift one leg off the ground. Alternatively, lift one leg and the opposite arm off the ground at the same time. This will require good balance and help further strengthen your core.
- Human flag: a great test of core strength (and arm strength); essentially a side plank with your feet off the ground. Check out the picture of Jason Statham below:
A Simple Plank Routine
While you can perform any number of planks for abs, a simple routine might just incorporate the standard plank and side planks:
- 2-3 minute standard plank
- 1-2 minute right side plank
- 1-2 minute left side plank
- Bonus 2 minute “around the world” plank: perform a plank with your left arm extended, then left leg off the ground, then right arm extended, then right leg off the ground, each done for 30 seconds with no rest.
Just perform this routine 2-3 times per week at most. Abs are like any other muscle in that they require rest. Plus you use them during other exercises such as pushups.
If you prefer to do more ab training, you can incorporate further core strengthening and abdominal exercises such as renegade rows or leg raises. Renegade rows require you to be in a pushup position and perform a one-arm row while stabilizing yourself. You can also do hanging leg raises or lying leg raises. Done slowly, these focus on the muscles in your lower abs and back.
How to Get Washboard Abs
Building a strong core is the best way to get washboard abs. Plank exercises are one of the most effective core exercises and abdominal exercises. A simple 5-10 minute routine performed 2-3 times per week is all it takes to increase core strength (for a more advanced routine, download Abs Blueprint for free). Don’t perform any more crunches unless you’d like lower back pain, poor posture, and visually unappealing abs. Instead, spend more time on fat burning workouts so that you will be able to see your abs.